Complete Guide to Snorkeling for Beginners

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Expert: Cameron – I have been snorkeling for over two decades through salt and fresh water. I have incorporated my snorkeling skills to translate to scuba diving for which I have been certified for over 3 years now. I have also taught my three children how to snorkel when they were toddlers and I have incorporated the lessons I learned from them and what I taught them about snorkeling within this guide.

Exploring the underwater world through snorkeling is a thrilling adventure that captivates beginners and seasoned enthusiasts alike.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you through the basics, address common concerns, and equip you with the knowledge to embark on your snorkeling journey confidently.

Snorkeling Guide for Beginners

Snorkeling, a gateway to the mesmerizing beauty beneath the waves, is a water activity that beckons beginners with its simplicity and awe-inspiring marine life encounters.

Again, this is a comprehensive guide for snorkeling for beginners, one that I used with my daughters when teaching them how to snorkel.

This is a live document and as new information or knowledge is gained that I feel could help a snorkeling novice, it will be updated.

Let’s dive into the essentials, dispel myths, and guide you on your path to becoming a skilled snorkeler.

Beginner Snorkeling Basics

Two Women Snorkeling

Definition and Purpose of Snorkeling

At its core, snorkeling involves exploring underwater environments while breathing through a snorkel.

It offers a unique perspective on marine life, coral reefs, and vibrant underwater landscapes.

The purpose? To connect with nature, witness the beauty of the ocean, and experience a sense of weightlessness.

Main Snorkeling Techniques for Beginners

These techniques are what I spend the most time assisting my children with when learning to snorkel.

Proper Breathing While Snorkeling

The techniques for proper breathing can make or break your snorkeling day in both calm and rough waters.

Transitioning from habitual nose breathing to exclusively relying on mouth breathing can pose a challenge, particularly in maintaining the suction of your mask on your nose.

In cases where the adherence of traditional snorkel masks becomes problematic due to this issue, modern full-faced masks are available for purchase.

These newer options provide the flexibility to breathe through both your nose and mouth.

Maintaining a consistent and steady breathing rhythm is of utmost importance.

This becomes evident when contemplating potential disruptions from incoming waves, emphasizing the need for a clear mind to swiftly regain your breathing cycle.

Clearing the Snorkel

Discover the simple steps to effectively clear your snorkel, preventing water ingress and maintaining an uninterrupted airflow.

This is typically accomplished by executing a vigorous exhale into your snorkel, expelling any residual water.

While various snorkel types exist, the clearing technique remains consistent across all of them, ensuring a uniform approach to keeping your snorkel free of water and facilitating a continuous and unobstructed air passage.

Equalizing Pressure During Snorkel Descent

Mastery of pressure equalization during descent is paramount for both comfort and safety.

While it is not necessary to dive down or descend when snorkeling, it is a good technique to bring with you incase the need arises.

The discomfort caused by water pressure pressing on your eardrums while descending for a closer exploration of marine life can be quite intense.

For individuals with ear infections or pre-existing ear issues, this discomfort can escalate to unbearable levels.

In such cases, it is advisable to remain at the surface or avoid diving beyond 5 feet in depth.

When utilizing a traditional snorkel mask, the process of equalizing pressure in your ears involves the following steps:

  1. Pinch your nose closed with your fingers to apply pressure.
  2. Close your mouth.
  3. Attempt to expel air from your nose while keeping both your nose and mouth closed.

Once you sense your eardrums pushing out, it indicates successful pressure equalization.

Following this, the discomfort in your ears or head should diminish, alleviating any pain you may have experienced.

Persistent pain may signal an ear infection, necessitating leaving the water, ear flushing, and consultation with a medical professional.

Essential Snorkel Equipment for Beginners

You don’t even need all three, but the fins are definitely a high recommendation.

1. Snorkel

The fundamental breathing apparatus, a snorkel allows you to breathe while keeping your face submerged.

Choose a comfortable, well-fitted snorkel for a seamless underwater experience.

2. Snorkeling Mask

An essential component for clear vision underwater.

Opt for a mask that fits snugly, creating a watertight seal.

Anti-fog coatings can enhance visibility.

3. Snorkel Fins

Fins provide propulsion and help conserve energy.

Select fins that match your foot size and offer a balance between flexibility and rigidity.

Beginning Snorkeling – Common Concerns

One common question among beginners is whether swimming skills are a prerequisite for snorkeling.

Do You Need to Know How to Swim to Snorkel?

Now, do you need to know how to swim to snorkel?

In short, no you do not.

While basic swimming skills are beneficial, many novice snorkelers can still enjoy the activity with proper guidance and shallow water practice.

Importance of Basic Swimming Skills for Snorkeling

Swimming skills contribute to confidence and safety while snorkeling.

Basic strokes and treading water can enhance your overall snorkeling experience, especially in deeper waters.

Is Snorkeling Hard for Beginners?

Snorkeling is often perceived as challenging, deterring potential enthusiasts.

Is snorkeling hard for beginners?

In reality, with the right approach and mindset, it’s an accessible activity for all skill levels, let’s explore those in the next section.

Exploring Snorkeling Across Skill Levels

While snorkeling is generally considered a straightforward activity, it can be categorized into three distinct skill levels.

Snorkeling for Novices

Novices encompass individuals trying snorkeling for the first time or those who prefer staying at the water’s surface, floating comfortably.

This category extends to non-swimmers using personal flotation devices (PFDs) for buoyancy.

Intermediate Snorkeling

Intermediate snorkelers embrace incorporating underwater exploration into their sessions, diving to moderate depths and occasionally equalizing ear pressure.

This approach allows for a closer observation of marine life or capturing images and videos of the underwater environment. A significant portion of the snorkeling community, even those engaging in the activity solely during vacations, falls into this category.

Advanced Snorkeling – Free Diving

Now, here’s where perspectives might differ.

While some may argue that snorkeling and free diving are distinct, they are essentially synonymous.

Merriam Webster defines free diving as “the sport of diving and swimming beneath the surface of water, especially to considerable depth, without a portable breathing device and typically with a face mask and one or two flippers.”

Notably, the definition excludes a “portable breathing device,” which I interpret as an oxygen tank.

Interestingly, many free divers still have a snorkel attached to their mask.

An average free diver can hold their breath for up to 3 minutes.

With the current record exceeding an astonishing 24 minutes, as demonstrated by Budimir Šobat, providing context for this remarkable achievement.

Tips for Easing into Snorkeling for Novices

Woman Snorkeling

Here are some tips to ease the beginner into snorkeling that I used with my daughters.

Shallow Water Snorkel Practice

Begin in shallow, calm waters to acclimate to the snorkeling experience.

Practice breathing through the snorkel and floating comfortably before venturing into deeper areas.

Snorkeling Float Techniques

Learn to float effortlessly on the surface.

Mastering relaxation techniques ensures an stress-free snorkeling adventure.

Take your time and progress at your own pace.

Researching Beginner-Friendly Snorkeling Spots

Selecting the right location is crucial for beginners.

Research and choose spots known for calm waters, minimal currents, and vibrant marine life.

Popular choices include sheltered bays, lagoons, and designated snorkeling areas.

Considering Water Conditions for Safe Snorkeling

Before diving in, check weather conditions and water visibility.

Optimal snorkeling conditions include clear water and minimal wave activity for a safe and enjoyable experience.

The Pros and Cons of Snorkeling

Read this article for a greater breakdown – Top Pros and Cons of Snorkeling.

Pros of SnorkelingCons of Snorkeling
Exploration of Marine LifeEquipment Issues
Low Impact on the EnvironmentWater Visibility

Snorkeling offers a front-row seat to the fascinating world below, allowing you to observe marine life in its natural habitat.

Compared to scuba diving, snorkeling has minimal impact on the underwater ecosystem.

It’s an eco-friendly way to appreciate marine biodiversity.

Ensure your equipment is well-maintained to avoid common issues such as leaks and foggy masks.

Regular checks before each snorkeling session are essential.

Unpredictable conditions like poor visibility can affect the quality of your snorkeling experience.

Choose locations with known good visibility, and consider local recommendations.

Understanding Snorkeling Safety

With any outdoor activity involving water, there needs to be a level of safety to always keep in mind.

The Snorkel Buddy System

Always snorkel with a buddy.

The buddy system enhances safety, allowing for immediate assistance in case of emergencies.

Monitoring Weather Conditions for Snorkeling

Stay informed about weather forecasts and water conditions.

Avoid snorkeling in adverse weather, as it can impact visibility and pose safety risks.

Common Issues for Beginner Snorkelers

These are what I noticed bothered them most when teaching my daughters to snorkel for the first time.

Overcoming Breathing Challenges While Snorkeling

Breathing through a snorkel can be challenging initially.

Practice controlled breathing and stay calm. Focus on slow, deep breaths to enhance comfort and relaxation.

Dealing with Foggy Snorkel Mask

Foggy Snorkel Mask

How to Keep a Snorkel Mask from Fogging.

Foggy masks can hinder visibility.

Use anti-fog solutions, ensure a proper mask fit, and defog before each session.

Clear vision enhances your overall snorkeling experience.

What to Wear for New Snorkelers

Believe it or not, there is a little more to what you need to wear within snorkeling than your mask and fins.

Other things need to be considered and the link below is a full article breaking everything down.

What to Wear When Snorkeling.

Choosing the Right Swimwear to Snorkel With

Select comfortable swimwear that allows for freedom of movement.

Rash guards provide added protection against sunburn and potential irritants in the water.

Snorkeling Sun Protection and Appropriate Accessories

Apply sunscreen generously, especially on exposed areas.

Consider wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV protection.

Additionally, invest in neoprene socks and gloves for added warmth in cooler waters.

Building Confidence as a Beginner Snorkeler

As with any new activity, mastery begins with gradual steps, snorkeling is no different.

Gradual Progression in Depth for Novice Snorkelers

Start in shallow waters and gradually progress to deeper areas as you gain confidence.

Familiarity with equipment and surroundings builds self-assurance.

Seeking Guidance from Experienced Snorkelers

Connect with experienced snorkelers or join guided tours.

Learning from those with expertise can provide valuable insights and enhance your snorkeling skills.

For a greater grasp of snorkeling and all it has to offer, check out our comprehensive article below on all subjects in snorkeling.


In conclusion, snorkeling for beginners is an enriching adventure that opens a portal to the wonders beneath the surface.

Armed with knowledge, equipment, and a sense of curiosity, you’re ready to embark on your snorkeling journey.

Embrace the underwater world, and let the ocean unveil its breathtaking secrets.

To learn even more about snorkeling, please check out our master post – Everything You Need to Know About Snorkeling.

[Sources and References]

“Free Diving Definition & Meaning.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Feb. 2024.
Suggitt, Connie. “56-Year-Old Freediver Holds Breath for Almost 25 Minutes Breaking Record.” Guinness World Records, Guinness World Records, 12 May 2021,

[Image Attribution and Licensing]

#1 Image by clicjeroen from Pixabay
#2 Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay